Parents need to provide healthy foods at regular meal and snack times, and it’s up to their children to decide how much and which of those foods to eat.
That was the message from Allison Oeding, a dietician with the Monroe County Women, Infants and Children Clinic, who made a presentation Monday night to the Head Start Council of Involved Families.
Here are some of Oeding’s tips to help parents and other caregivers in getting their children to eat healthy foods:
- Provide healthy meals and snacks at regular intervals, two to three hours apart on the following schedule: breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack, dinner and maybe another evening snack. Stick to this schedule and do not offer additional snacks or food at other times, even if your child doesn’t eat what’s been given at the previous meal or snack.
- If your children don’t eat what you give them, just wait until the next meal or snack in a couple of hours. They will learn to like the foods that you are introducing to them, even if they’re not eating them right away. And they won’t starve if they don’t eat at a particular meal. If they’re really hungry, they’ll eat what you give them, or they’ll eat well at their next meal or snack. Unless they’re having problems with their weight, let them eat as much as they want – or none – of each food you are providing.
- Eat at the table with no distractions like TV.
- Make sure you are offering several portions of healthy foods like fruit and vegetables every day. An example of a good snack might be something like yogurt and peaches.
- It’s okay for children to sometimes eat unhealthy foods, like fries or sweets, in moderation as part of their overall healthy diet. But treat sweets like a regular food, not something special. Don’t use them as a reward for good behavior.
- Try new foods. Even if they’re not accepted at first, you’ve accomplished something just by introducing a new food and having them see it and maybe smell it or taste it. Sometimes you will have to offer that food many times before they’ll eat it. Don’t force them to eat anything.
- Model healthy eating. If you show your children that you enjoy eating healthy foods and trying new foods, it will help them learn to do that themselves.
We thank Allison for providing a lively, interesting presentation on a topic that’s important for every family with children.